How the electronics ban on flights will affect SA travellers

A Microsoft Surface Book i7 laptop rests on a tabletop at an event in the Manhattan borough of New York City, US. Image by: LUCAS JACKSON / REUTERS
South Africans who are booked on flights to the United States via Dubai or one of the US’s other “high-risk” cities from this Saturday until mid-October will have to make sure that their laptops‚ tablets‚ games consoles and cameras are fully insured.

Local passengers have expressed fears that checked-in baggage on Dubai-bound flights will be targeted by handlers en route.

The ban applies to flights to the US from the airports in Cairo‚ Kuwait City‚ Dubai‚ Doha‚ Abu Dhabi‚ Casablanca‚ Jeddah‚ Amman‚ Riyadh and Istanbul. It affects the following airlines: Royal Jordanian‚ Egypt Air‚ Turkish Airlines‚ Saudia‚ Kuwait Airways‚ Emirates‚ Etihad Airways‚ and Royal Air Maroc‚ several of which fly out of South Africa.

The US Department of Homeland Security has linked the ban to extremists seeking “innovative methods” to attack jets.

The most affected airline operating in South Africa is Emirates‚ which has daily direct flights from Jo’burg‚ Cape Town and Durban to Dubai and then on to several American cities.

“Emirates can confirm that as per the new security directive issued by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)‚ electronic devices larger than a cell phone or smart phone‚ excluding medical devices‚ cannot be carried in the cabin of the aircraft‚ an airline spokesman said.

“The directive comes into effect on 25 March 2017 and is valid until 14 October 2017‚ and is applicable to all US-bound passengers from Dubai International Airport‚ whether originating or transiting through.”

He would not be drawn on the liability implications‚ given that airlines do not take any responsibility for valuables such as electronic goods and cameras which are checked in.

Nor did he respond to questions pertaining to the fact that electronic goods would be at risk of not just theft but damage due to such luggage being “robustly” handled in transit.

Somerset West-based journalist Norman McFarlane – who recently booked and paid for Emirates flights for himself and his wife from Cape Town to Los Angeles‚ via Dubai‚ departing in mid-June – said the cabin ban on tablets‚ e-readers and laptops had forced him to take expensive steps to deal with the risk of theft and damage to those electronic items.

“I’ve made sure all my information is backed up on the Cloud‚ I’ve spoken to my insurers about full cover of those items on my All Risks‚ and I’ve been advised to invest in sturdy clam-shell‚ non-zip cases‚ and insure them as well‚” he said.

“My insurer also told me to have them shrink-wrapped at the airport. There’s no doubt that baggage routed via Dubai and the other airports subjected to the ban will be targeted by thieves.”

While he accepted that there may be a valid threat‚ the impact on passengers was significant‚ he said.

“The flight from Dubai to Los Angeles is more than 16 hours long – I had planned to spend much of it working on my laptop.

“Now I’m going to have to go old school – read an actual book and talk to my wife.”

– Tiso Black Star Group/ConsumerLIVE

Wendy Knowler


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